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Monday, October 31, 2011

Orignal Horror Films to Scare Your Pants Off

It seems only appropriate, here on Halloween day, to discuss a few horror movies.  I've made a short list of horror films that don't quite fit in with their brothers and sisters.  I'm talking horror films that are unlike others in at least some way, films that are refreshingly different, not perfect, granted, but still original enough to be more enjoyable than your run of the mill tripe that gets pumped out of Hollywood (I'm looking at you Marcus Nispel).  These aren't going to be in order of how much I like them or anything like that so don't bother with that.  I'm basically going to put them down as I think of them (see, isn't that more fun?) Let's go.

1.  Martyrs (2008)

Yikes...this film is rough.  I mean really rough.  Probably one of the most horrifying horror movies I've ever seen.  It never lets up, it starts hard and ends harder, we, as the audience, never get any relief from this film, yet we keep watching, we must keep watching.  The violence in this film is extreme, and it's relentless, uncaring, brutal, ferocious and depraved.  There is torture that would make Saw and Hostel run for cover.  That said, this film is far different and leagues better than all the other films in both series.  Where Saw and Hostel (especially the later installments of Saw) fit into the category they helped create, that of "Torture Porn"...where we "get off" on the images of death and torment.  Martyrs does not do this.  There is no satisfaction in watching what happens, it is devastating.  This film burns itself into your brain and leaves you thinking about it for days.

2. YellowBrickRoad (2011)

I just watched this last night, yup, last night.  This is a very fascinating film, almost more psychological thriller (with some horridly violent scenes) than straight horror film.  The premise is that the population of a town in New Hampshire disappeared in 1940, just packed up random things and headed off down a trail called? You guessed it, YellowBrickRoad.  A team of people, photographers, filmmakers, writers, what have you, come to the town (called Friar) to investigate the story, now 70 years old.  Once they set off down the trail, things get...weird.  Music is heard in the distance, in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization, seemingly from every direction.  People start to break down, and then the hits the fan.  What I really liked about this film was the fact  it made an effort to be more character driven than what we're used to seeing, that and the fact it's just so blasted weird and horrifying.  The end falls apart a bit, I kind of knew it would about half-way through the film, but regardless, it was an intense, scary film I would recommend to anyone who likes a little low-budget horror.

3.  House (1977)

You like your horror films to be crazy?  Well then House is the film for you.  There is no easy way to explain this film.  Take the styles and stop-motion of Tim Burton, toss in a little bit of Dario Argento's colors, a piano that eats people, severed heads that fly around, and make it Japanese and you might get close.  The main characters are all (seemingly) teen-aged Japanese girls, who are basically a caricature of woman in general, Japanese women in particular.  There is a bizarre love story that plays simultaneously with the main story (a flashback I believe) that is there to add some extra depth and horror to the story, when you consider what happens to all the guests of the house.  It's like the filmmakers took some acid and started shooting, seeing as how the film gets crazier and crazier (and then they somehow slipped the audience some).  Oh yeah, and there's like a demon-ghost cat as could one not love this film?

4.  Rubber (2010)

House is pretty crazy.  This might be crazier, if merely in concept alone.  A tire, named Robert, becomes sentient and goes on a killing spree.  Yes, that is the actual plot of the film.  It's funny, gory and downright insane!  (I stole that from a movie poster, but it's the best way to describe it.).  It begins with a police officer explaining that this film is an homage to the "no reason", asking a series of questions pertaining to other films and merely replying, "no reason" (i.e. In the excellent "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" by Tobe Hooper, why don't we ever see the characters go to the bathroom or wash their hands, like people in real life? Absolutely no reason!)  We see an audience of people standing out in the desert, watching the "film" of Robert on his rampage (what we are seeing) through binoculars. It's all very bizarre.  Strange subplots that seem to be connected, or not connected to anything else in the film, abound.  This is another entry for you if you enjoy films that make you scratch your head.

5.  The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Yeah, that Blair Witch Project.  In recent years we have seen a slew of films that are made in the "found footage" style (think Paranormal Activity, [REC] and it's remake Quarantine, Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism, etc.).  Not a completely new idea (Cannibal Holocaust came out in 1980), but what makes The Blair Witch Project exceptionally terrifying is that not only did it claim to be real (constructing a website about the myth of the Blair Witch, setting up an abandoned car where it was said the kids disappeared) it felt like it could very well be real, just a bunch of college kids going off into the woods making a documentary about a local legend.  I will admit that subsequent viewing of this film are nowhere near as good as the first time, but, the end, specifically the last 10-15 minutes are gold.  It never fails to make my heart pound even though I know how it ends.

6.  Eraserhead (1975)

I don't normally consider this film to be horror, but it fits nicely into this list.  This film is a nightmare.  It's like literally watching someone's nightmare, always wishing they would wake, but they never do.  This is David Lynch's first feature film.  The landscape in the film (seemingly post-apocalyptic, industrial wasteland) mirrors Lynch's feelings about where he was living at the time (Philadelphia I believe), the rest of the film mirrors his fears of becoming a father.  This is essentially the crux of the film.  All parents hope their children are healthy and normal, but they will love them regardless.  The man in Eraserhead has a child that is neither of those two things. It is deformed and sickly.  He tries to take care of it, raise it, make things right with his girlfriend, all the while trying to escape into a fantasyland he imagines in his radiator....yeah, radiator.  Exceptionally bizarre, hauntingly crafted, this film will drive you to the limits of your sanity.

7.  Phantasm (1979)

I love this film.  This is what I want to see when it comes to horror, something original.  You have your masked murderers, your psychos, backwoods freaks, demons, ghosts, etc....and then you have the Tall Man.  What is he?  A mortician...maybe.  What does he want? Dead bodies apparently, as he drives his hearse from graveyard to graveyard, robbing graves.  He brings them back to the morgue/funeral home, but what does he do with them?  The answer to that question is a nice bizarre one that you'll have to watch the film to find out.  From small hooded men to flying silver cranial boring metal spheres, to corny but genuine humour, to terrifying bloody violence, this film has it all.  Another interesting thing with this film is that it spawned three sequels, all directed by the same director, that tie in to this film and explain things about the story by furthering and expanding it.  I highly recommend this to anyone who considers themselves a fan of horror.

And that's it.  I'm only gonna do 7.  "What kind of list only has 7 on it?  Why not 5 or 10?"
No reason.
Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Mother. Father. Always you wrestle inside me."

Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life has just recently arrived on Blu Ray and DVD, and I had an opportunity to watch it, once on DVD, again on Blu Ray.  Before I even begin here I have to make something abundantly clear, if you have a Blu Ray player, obtain this film on Blu Ray (it comes with a DVD copy anyway) and if you do not own an Blu Ray player, get one, if not only for this film.  To say this film is "beautiful" does not do it justice, neither do the words, "magnificent" "amazing" "spectacular" (though, those are all very applicable words for this film), this is a film that is "beyond words" so to speak, or at least, that is how I felt after watching it.  Speechless, without words.  What is the film about?  Everything, life, humans, what have you, it's almost easier to say what it isn't about.  The film begins with a quote from Job 38: 4,7, the part where God is answering Job's questions. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, in short, Job was a wealthy man (physically and spiritually) who is tested by the devil, determined to make Job deny God, and ultimately remains faithful and is rewarded for his faith.  The verse that is quoted here is God's answer to Job's questioning, essentially:  "God, where were you when my family and all that I own was taken from me?"  God lets Job have his moment, then responds with a question of His own, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"  Job didn't realize that all he had came from God in the first place, God who crafted the very Universe and all that resides within it.  God brought Job's perspective away from his own little microcosm of existence and presented him with the large scale.  Job remained faithful, not all do.
The family in The Tree of Life lose a son, they mourn, the question God, they remain faithful (or so it seems).  We get a sequence very reminiscent of 2001:  A Space Odyssey, showing the creation of all things, all set to some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard (bookmark: This is a VERY musical film).  We see the cosmos, single-cell life and the ensuing evolution, the dinosaurs and then back to the microcosm of 1950's America (Texas, I believe).  I may be wrong in seeing this connection but I believe it to be the point.  To show this family, watch it grow up, change, mature and struggle, knowing that one of the sons will die, juxtaposed with the grandiosity and magnificence of existence, is meant to almost parallel Job.  The small and the big, not necessarily important and unimportant, just a matter of size and scale, something the oldest son can not understand, something the mother questions, yet seems to ultimately understand.  A local boy in the neighborhood dies and the oldest son Jack whispers (seemingly) to God, "Why should I be good, when you aren't?"  He doesn't understand, and that seems to be the case with most people, it's not easy, but then what is?  Most of what happens seems to be showing us how Jack grows farther away from his family, his "naive" but loving mother, his overbearing father, even his brothers to a certain extent.  I know that this connection, the strictly spiritual connection, was most likely not Malick's intent, could be, but most likely not, and it almost doesn't matter.  Sean Penn plays the now grown-up version of Jack who seems to be replaying most of what happens in the film in his head, remembering what is was like growing up, remembering his family and his brothers (one now long dead), rethinking his life and the way he lead it.  All this leads up to some sort of afterlife where everyone is reunited and remembers they're family and friends, it's an interesting take on things.
That's really about's not the easiest film to describe or put into a nice plot summary, it's light on the narrative and heavy on the visuals, the imagery the sounds and emotions that are conveyed.  And the music, oh the music.  The sequence of creation, the galaxies, stars, planets, supernovas and nebulae are set to the most wonderful opera and classical music, it's enough to bring tears to your eyes.  The father's dream was to be a musician and he frequently plays classical music while the family eats or sits around the house.  Having an affinity to classical music myself, I could not resist this film (much like the soundtrack to 2001:  A Space Odyssey).

Terrence Malick is a visionary director the likes of which are rarely seen in this day and age, from his early film Days of Heaven to his epic meditation on war and humanity The Thin Red Line, and now The Tree of Life.  This is one of those films you must see, if you love film, music, art, whatever!  Just see it.  It's not for everyone, but it's at least worth a watch.  FINAL GRADE: A

Monday, October 24, 2011


Alright everyone, we're coming up on the last night of HORRORFEST. We've watched Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, and Let the Right One In. This Friday we will be watching Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece, The Shining. Everyone is invited, there is no sign-up, just show up at the library before 5:15 this Friday evening, the 28th. Food and drink will be available but feel free to bring anything else you might like, either for yourself or to share. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 10, 2011


Hey everyone. Just want to start off by saying the first night of HORRORFEST went well, we had about 11 people in attendance for the film Night of the Living Dead. This coming Friday, the 14th we will be watching John Carpenter's classic film Halloween. Come on out for some food and drink, good company and a great film, hope to see you there. (Library hours are 9:30-5:00, we will wait til about 5:15 before we start, come early so you don't get locked out!)